Learning Uruguay

Every day brings ????

Computers in Uruguay, then and now.

Posted by urufish on May 19, 2007


I recall in vivid detail the first time we used a computer in Uruguay.  It was mid December in the mid 80’s.  We had just arrived in Piriapolis for the Christmas holidays.  The day before we left, one of my staff lamented the fact we didn’t have a proper training manual.  The one we were using was typed on paper.  It was about 10 years old.  Some pages were turning brown around the edges.  Everytime something was added, a page was added.  If something didn’t apply anymore, it was marked with a big ‘x’.  There were 2 copies.  One kept by the manager and the other on the floor for employee usage.  They were thick.  Both were dog eared and looked like crap.   So I got the bright idea to make a new one, from scratch, ON A COMPUTER…  so we could edit the document on disk and reprint it nice and clean.  Seems pretty korny now, but it was big stuff back then. 

The laptop of that period was more like a desktop with wheels on the bottom.  I only had a day anyway to get something to take so I decided to get something locally.  Either that, or I would write it by hand and have someone at the office put it on disk when I got back.  At that time, no one had a computer in Piriapolis.  So friends and family was out.  But my daughter had a tutor.  She was still a university student and probably knew something about them.  She called one of her friends and we found out you could rent whole computer systems by the week in Montevideo.  Worked for me.  We called up and ordered one.  It was sent here by bus.  It was U$S100/week.  It was just before 286’s came out.  It had an amber screen… which I thought was neat because until that point, they were always green.  We set it up on the floor of our bedroom and were ready to use it when I realized that a) the software was in Spanish…  b) even worse-the keyboard was in Spanish, c) it was Wordperfect (hadn’t used it before)… and d) for whatever reason, the memory didn’t work.  We ordered a replacement stick from the city, which arrived on the first bus the next day.  I opened up the box, inserted the stick and sliced my hand while removing it.  Had to wait for the blood to dry before we could turn it on.  But it worked once you got used to the local environment.  For instance, it would crash every 30 minutes or so, so I would save to diskette every 10 minutes…  The power wasn’t so hot in those days and there were 2 or 3 interruptions per day.  Sometimes it wouldn’t come back for a half hour or even an afternoon.  That was the signal to take a break.  For the next 2 weeks, I worked 8 hours a day on the manual.  By the time we had to leave, it was almost finished.  Copied it to a 5.25″ floppy, (this was before 3.5″ when a floppy diskette really was floppy) and took it back to the office.  To this day, I still remember some Wordperfect short keystrokes.   That was then. 

Today, we use laptops, the screens are in colour.  It doesn’t matter if the power goes out (not that it does) because of batteries and UPS’s and for the past few years, none of our computers have crashed.  But the fustrations are still there. 

Yesterday, my daughter wanted to start playing SIMS again.  A month or so ago, we had her machine rebuilt.  After several months of chatting and downloading trashy music from all sorts of nefarious free sites, it was crawling with all manner of worms, trojans, virii (is that really the plural for virus???), and in general, was slow as peanut butter, (could have said Molasses, but that would be giving into Uruguay on an item that I still sorely miss :).  When the machine was rebuilt, I specifically asked that SIMS not be installed.  So this morning, we spent 30 minutes in the feria over at Villa Biarritz and picked up SIMS2 and a couple of expansions.  $280 later, we had an armful of games.  Now dont get me wrong when I say I’m uncomfortable with buying software that obviously isn’t the real stuff.  This is Uruguay and it’s near to impossible to purchase an original game.  I used to think it was an underground thing.  Didn’t take us long to figure out that it’s not.  The lightbulb went off the day we bought a new PS2 game.   I asked why it was so expensive and the clerk said you’re paying another U$S75 for the chip.  What chip?  The chip they put in the PS2 so you can play ‘pirata’ games.  The ones you get for $60-$100, (3 to 4 bucks). 

I’m taking a leap on this one but I think if stores sold the original games, (PC as well as PS2, etc), at the prices we pay in NA, no one would or perhaps, more accurately, could, buy them here.  500 pesos per game seems a bit much for the average Uruguayan. 

Anyway, although I installed SIMS2 originally for my daugher last year, it was a nightmare which I didn’t wish to repeat.  First of all, there’s the language issue.  2ndly, it’s a crack which requires you to jump through hoops and install files to trick the computer, etc.  We took it to a local PC shop and for $300, he can have the fun.  Well, he installed SIMS2 on my daughter’s desktop and while it almost worked, just before the program comes on screen, it reboots.  We have the choice to reinstall the OS and try it again, or move on.  We decided to move on.  I volunteered a laptop we keep on hand for emergencies.  He installed SIMS2 and then he added an expansion and he said it worked.  When he went to install the SIMS3 software, it didn’t work.  We took home the laptop and when we went to use SiMS2, it seems to have been affected by the SIMS3 and it wont work now.  Monday cant come soon enough. 


5 Responses to “Computers in Uruguay, then and now.”

  1. Hey Irv-

    You mention staff, what do you do there?

    Steve Bowman

  2. urufish said

    Long, meandering blogs have a habit of doing that to people.. The staff of my old office before I retired here. I was a partner in a national security company. Ran the operations and IT functions. When internet came to Piria (1st through Dedicado and then through Antel), it allowed me to most of my job from the top of San Antonio. A couple of years ago when commercial VoIP appeared, I was able to 100% of the job. Unfortunately, 100% of the job meant 24/7…. and how can one appreciate the beauty of Piriapolis or Uruguay working 24/7?

  3. urufish said

    Sorry Steve. I read the beginning again and figured it out. Neglected to add the decade.. Edited the post so it’s no longer misleading.

  4. Brazzie said

    Hmmm, this sounds like one of those “guess the date” puzzles.

    My guess: you were writing that manual on Jan 1985.

  5. urufish said

    OK.. you got me going… I’ll figure out how to figure it out and post it here…. now.. let’s see if there’s something I can connect it to.. hmmmm

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